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Tipsheet

Norfolk Southern's CEO Breaks Silence on Ohio Derailment

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

It's been weeks since a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, and the rail company's CEO has finally broken his silence while making a surprise visit to the town where anxieties continue to run high despite reassurances from officials. 

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According to Cincinnati CBS affiliate WKRC, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw defended the decision to conduct a "controlled burn" of leaked chemicals, saying "we did what we needed to do in order to prevent an uncontrolled explosion in the evening."

Shaw also reportedly reiterated what authorities have said about how "all air and municipal water tests have come back clean" while still warning "people with private wells" to continue drinking bottled water.

WKRC's report notes that the line on which the train derailed "has been running again for over a week" following the installation of "replacement tracks." But when Shaw was asked about the safety of the soil running under and around the tracks, he refused a direct response.

Via WKRC:

"We worked with the Ohio EPA to make sure that it was safe to operate on the soil in that area," Shaw said.

Shaw was asked if that meant the soil underneath the rail line was not contaminated.

"I didn't say that," Shaw responded. "What I'm saying is, we worked with the Ohio EPA on safe operations and safety for the community."

Shaw wouldn't say definitively if the soil underneath the replaced rail line is still contaminated.

Shaw's visit comes as Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D) said that East Palestine "residents are right to be skeptical."

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"We think the water’s safe,” Sen. Brown said in a recent CNN interview. "But when you return to your home, you should be tested again for your water and your soil and your air, not to mention those that have their own wells," he added.

According to the latest reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air quality testing in more than 500 homes hasn't picked up any contaminants and water samples taken near the derailment site haven't detected any vinyl chloride in waterways.

Ohio has also announced plans for state officials to stand up a health clinic in East Palestine for residents reporting rashes, nausea, headaches, and other symptoms since the derailment occurred. At the federal level, the Biden administration has agreed to a request from Governor Mike DeWine (R) to send CDC officials to East Palestine to investigate what, if any, health dangers remain in the community.

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